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Thread: Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

  1. #166
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    Right, but that doesn't make them masterpieces. It just means you like them. The question that interests me is when broader opinion seems to converge on certain pieces. The degree to which that's happened, the degree to which various atonal works "appeal to a significant number of lay listeners" is debatable.
    Broader opinion? So your argument is that our subjective views (based on what music we enjoy and are being inspired by) are not enough - and we need an objective measure - and that popularity (the subjective judgement of the largest number of people) is the only proper measure? Subjective vs. objective is a never ending battle on this site and subjective always wins. As for popularity, it means the lowest common denominator. I know what I like and how much it moves (in the broadest terms) me. I have a lot of experience and I trust my taste. I don't ask you to.

    I don't know a lot of music history but wasn't Bach broadly unpopular until he was rescued in the mid-19th Century? Did that mean his works became masterpieces only after that? Similarly, I grew up in a Britain that looked down on Mahler as a vulgar composer. When I was young there were still people around who considered Dvorak to be a "peasant composer"!

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    ............When I was young there were still people around who considered Dvorak to be a "peasant composer"!
    That's wrong Enthusiast. He was a media composer who trounced my pitch for a Hovis ad. I'll never forgive him for that.......
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-13-2019 at 08:57.

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  4. #168
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    Public opinion aside, Boulez's rallying call that composers who don't explore or embrace atonality are not worth considering (paraphrased somewhat, sorry), does still resonate for quite a few composers and the possibilities opened up by emancipation of all rudimentary elements in music can be creatively dizzying and exciting. On that basis alone, atonality will last for sometime yet imv, so long as atonally inclined composers step to the music they hear and not to the popular clamour for tonal reassurance.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    I observe--without unseemly satisfaction or rancor--that my commentators (critics, if you will) resort as they must to reference to collective opinions and to guides, critics, and scholars (with whom they have come to agree). A moment's reflection--or more if that's required--will serve to bring realization that these yardsticks of greatness and criteria for identification as masterpieces, are anchored in the sand of opinion and not in the bedrock of objective, measurable facts, quantities, qualities inherent within the art itself. The speed of light has been measured with great accuracy; the value of pi determined to millions of decimal places. Will I receive a similar answer to my query about Ravel's Boléro? Ravel didn't think it was, and he was well-qualified to judge. If it is a masterpiece, is it of the same order as La Mer? Or of the Glazunov violin concerto? Is that a masterpiece?

    Things (in the Arts) are masterpieces if we think they are (as individuals). If others agree, we feel better about the validity of our own judgement: "Well, if X likes it, it must be good!" Who is to be master? I think most of us secretly have made a god of our own taste, and have our own accumulated library of masterpieces. I know I do, and have. If others agree, so much the better. If not, then am I wrong and they are right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    All that can be said about Art, artworks are factual descriptions of their measurable quantities and qualities: Name of creator (if known). Date of creation. Size, shape, duration (if a piece of music). Language (if literature or opera). Color. Weight. Number and characteristics of those asserting they "like" the work. und so weite. etc.
    Really sounds like you have no idea what you're talking about. The phrase, Dunning–Kruger effect, comes to mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Broader opinion? So your argument is that our subjective views (based on what music we enjoy and are being inspired by) are not enough - and we need an objective measure - and that popularity (the subjective judgement of the largest number of people) is the only proper measure?
    No. That's not my argument.


    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Subjective vs. objective is a never ending battle on this site and subjective always wins. As for popularity, it means the lowest common denominator. I know what I like and how much it moves (in the broadest terms) me. I have a lot of experience and I trust my taste. I don't ask you to.
    Again. Good for you, but that doesn't mean ---> What you like = Masterpiece.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I don't know a lot of music history but wasn't Bach broadly unpopular until he was rescued in the mid-19th Century? Did that mean his works became masterpieces only after that? Similarly, I grew up in a Britain that looked down on Mahler as a vulgar composer. When I was young there were still people around who considered Dvorak to be a "peasant composer"!
    "Broad appeal" involves not just lay people, but professional, and scholarly opinion as well --- all of them; and when talking about composers like Bach, you also have to consider the utterly different circumstances of music and musical life then as compared to now. Music consumption wasn't something "the masses" did. If you heard professional music, it was because you were either a member of the aristocracy, wealthy merchant class, or because you went to church. So, if you want to talk about Bach and "popularity", you need to take into account the time period and what it meant to be "popular". In that respect, you couldn't possibly be more wrong. It's a bit of a myth that Bach was broadly unpopular. In his own lifetime, he was considered the greatest organist in Europe which is as much as to say---the world. That's no small caveat. His skills at the keyboard were legendary. His musicianship was just as highly respected and sought after. His music was collected, even in his own lifetime, by other professional musicians, and his works were regularly discussed (not always favorably, but Bach was not ignored). Don't forget that no less than King Frederick the Great spent a decade trying to get old Bach to visit and later in life called JS Bach's visit one of the hightlights of his life. Bach's manuscripts continued to circulate and was eagerly sought after for acquisition by collectors. By the classical period, for example, you had Baron von Swieten staging weekly concerts featuring the music of JSBach. Mozart studied the elder Bach's music (including the fugues as a child---and which he specifically requested sing that no one compared to old Bach) and Haydn was bedazzled by Bach's Mass in B Minor. When Beethoven later wrote his own Missa Solemnis, it's length was meant to rival Bach's Mass. Beethoven's fugues? They were written as an artistic acknowledgement of Bach's fugues. So, were the masses clamoring for Bach CDs in the 18th century? No. But Bach's "broad appeal" already was well established among those with access to his music.
    Last edited by vtpoet; Sep-13-2019 at 13:28.

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  10. #172
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    Really sounds like you have no idea what you're talking about. The phrase, Dunning–Kruger effect, comes to mind.
    I'll bet it came quickly to your mind, thus painlessly shutting off the need or desire to think further about my post. You will note you find yourself embedded in the same sand of opinion as my other critics.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Sep-13-2019 at 13:32.

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    So a near-consensus is emerging, that expertise and developed taste are also important in evaluating works. I agree with this.

    By any reasonable standard the core repertoire of atonal modern music has already made it. It's lasted and is part of the canon. The question is closed.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    So a near-consensus is emerging, that expertise and developed taste are also important in evaluating works. I agree with this.

    By any reasonable standard the core repertoire of atonal modern music has already made it. It's lasted and is part of the canon. The question is closed.
    I agree. I'm sure the core repertoire of atonal modern music is established on the basis of number of performances, their frequency, audience size and characteristics, CD sales, and critical concurrence. Can we now have a vote as to which are the masterpieces, in order to anchor them firmly within an objective framework?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    I agree. I'm sure the core repertoire of atonal modern music is established on the basis of number of performances, their frequency, audience size and characteristics, CD sales, and critical concurrence. Can we now have a vote as to which are the masterpieces, in order to anchor them firmly within an objective framework?
    Probably been done already on this site, in one of the many voting threads, right?

  14. #176
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    I should have added and to my post above about anchoring a masterpiece list in the objectivity of a vote. But herewith ongoing discussions similarly working to establish broad truths about music:

    Telemann is greater than Bach
    My definitive ranking of the major composers
    Best 25 works of this century?
    Composer tier list

  15. #177
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    I observe--without unseemly satisfaction or rancor--that my commentators (critics, if you will) resort as they must to reference to collective opinions and to guides, critics, and scholars (with whom they have come to agree). A moment's reflection--or more if that's required--will serve to bring realization that these yardsticks of greatness and criteria for identification as masterpieces, are anchored in the sand of opinion and not in the bedrock of objective, measurable facts, quantities, qualities inherent within the art itself. The speed of light has been measured with great accuracy; the value of pi determined to millions of decimal places. Will I receive a similar answer to my query about Ravel's Boléro? Ravel didn't think it was, and he was well-qualified to judge. If it is a masterpiece, is it of the same order as La Mer? Or of the Glazunov violin concerto? Is that a masterpiece?

    Things (in the Arts) are masterpieces if we think they are (as individuals). If others agree, we feel better about the validity of our own judgement: "Well, if X likes it, it must be good!" Who is to be master? I think most of us secretly have made a god of our own taste, and have our own accumulated library of masterpieces. I know I do, and have. If others agree, so much the better. If not, then am I wrong and they are right?
    You are far to much in the weeds on this. Things in the Arts are masterpieces if we think they are as the collective opinion of individuals over time when works of art are created that others are not capable of equaling. The longer the period of time and the more people over the ages that make the collective evaluation the more likely a work of art is going to be something few others can create and the more the designation of it being a masterpiece is appropriate.

    In short, what you are missing is the fact that it is not just about individuals looking at or hearing a work and saying, ‘That is a masterpiece!’; it is a consensus: many individuals collectively over time agreeing that this is something wonderful and beautiful that they and most others could not possibly create.
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-13-2019 at 16:00.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    No. That's not my argument.
    Then I am not sure what your argument is. Perhaps you could reiterate it? And, while you are at it, I would love to know why it worries you so much (sorry but that is always the question in my mind whenever I see a spate of anti-atonal posts).

    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    Again. Good for you, but that doesn't mean ---> What you like = Masterpiece.
    As I have said, at the end of the day we are all expressing opinions and cannot hope to do more than that. There is no acceptable proof in this regularly repeated discussion (there is always at least one discussion going on about how atonal music is doomed or great). I know I am right and you know you are right. That's what taste is like.

    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    "Broad appeal" involves not just lay people, but professional, and scholarly opinion as well --- all of them; and when talking about composers like Bach, you also have to consider the utterly different circumstances of music and musical life then as compared to now. Music consumption wasn't something "the masses" did. If you heard professional music, it was because you were either a member of the aristocracy, wealthy merchant class, or because you went to church. So, if you want to talk about Bach and "popularity", you need to take into account the time period and what it meant to be "popular". In that respect, you couldn't possibly be more wrong. It's a bit of a myth that Bach was broadly unpopular. In his own lifetime, he was considered the greatest organist in Europe which is as much as to say---the world. That's no small caveat. His skills at the keyboard were legendary. His musicianship was just as highly respected and sought after. His music was collected, even in his own lifetime, by other professional musicians, and his works were regularly discussed (not always favorably, but Bach was not ignored). Don't forget that no less than King Frederick the Great spent a decade trying to get old Bach to visit and later in life called JS Bach's visit one of the hightlights of his life. Bach's manuscripts continued to circulate and was eagerly sought after for acquisition by collectors. By the classical period, for example, you had Baron von Swieten staging weekly concerts featuring the music of JSBach. Mozart studied the elder Bach's music (including the fugues as a child---and which he specifically requested sing that no one compared to old Bach) and Haydn was bedazzled by Bach's Mass in B Minor. When Beethoven later wrote his own Missa Solemnis, it's length was meant to rival Bach's Mass. Beethoven's fugues? They were written as an artistic acknowledgement of Bach's fugues. So, were the masses clamoring for Bach CDs in the 18th century? No. But Bach's "broad appeal" already was well established among those with access to his music.
    The highlighted part of the first sentence seems to be a proof that could be used for atonal music, too. For the rest, there is no myth. Bach was respected in his lifetime and many critics and composers revered him after that, until his music slowly became acceptable in public performance again. No-one mentioned the lumpen masses - it was educated concert audiences who rejected him, as did the many who bought sheet music (the nearest equivalent to CDs and downloads). Adjusting for history many atonal composers of the early to mid 1900s are doing better with the educated public than Bach did after, say, 70 years.

    For myself, I don't greatly care if atonal music continues to grow in popularity or not. I know what reward I get from listening to various masterpieces and it doesn't matter to me at all if some of them sink without trace after I am gone. And, even if it did, that would not mean it might not spring back 100 years later. For now, anyway, I have access to a huge variety of it and very often a choice of performances, too.

  17. #179
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    The widely agreed-upon "masterpieces" of music are extraordinary achievements by master composers. A master composer is one who has mastered the elements of his art, and has employed them in a manner which conveys a distinctive vision and a "message" which strikes a great number of people as powerful, important, and timeless, the last of these tested over time, as the word implies. Recognition of masterpieces is partly objective: do I hear the composer manipulating the conceptual and technical materials of his art in an accomplished and exceptional way? - partly personal/subjective: do I feel the work is saying something extraordinary? - and partly statistical: how is the work assessed, both objectively and subjectively, by others (with consideration given both to who those others are and to the time period over which they make their assessments)?

    To reduce the complex process of evaluating art to "taste" is an absurd reduction and falsification.

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  19. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    T Bach was respected in his lifetime and many critics and composers revered him after that, until his music slowly became acceptable in public performance again. No-one mentioned the lumpen masses - it was educated concert audiences who rejected him, as did the many who bought sheet music (the nearest equivalent to CDs and downloads). Adjusting for history many atonal composers of the early to mid 1900s are doing better with the educated public than Bach did after, say, 70 years.
    That comparison requires a rather substantial "adjustment," wouldn't you say?

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